Arizona lawmakers have convened a special session to address extending unemployment benefits for those who have been out of work for more than a year, but there won’t be a vote today.
Instead, the Legislature will adjourn without taking action to advance the governor’s proposal and come back to work on Monday afternoon.
House Majority Leader Steve Court said a combination of factors influenced the decision, among them spotty attendance and an uncertainty whether the measure will find the supermajority support it needs in each chamber to pass with an emergency clause.
That will allow it to go into effect immediately, instead of after 90 days, and will prevent a major lapse in benefits for 15,000 people who will stop receiving unemployment insurance payments tomorrow.
However, Court acknowledged that he didn’t know what the net effect would be Monday for attendance, as some members present today won’t be able to make it next week.
Chief among those who won’t be able to attend are Democratic lawmakers, who are essential if the bill is to pass, as many Republicans have vowed not to support it. There were 19 Democrats present in the House today, but House Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley said that number will only be 14 next week.
“If this thing isn’t done today, it’s not going to pass,” Farley said.
Several Republicans in the House said that as of now, they were undecided of how they were going to vote, saying that they have to see something before they could say definitively where they would land.
“The humanitarian side of me says that this is something people need and we should help them,” said Rep. Steve Urie, R-Gilbert. “But on the other side, do we want to keep adding to the debt that we’re leaving our children and grandchildren?”
Officials at the Arizona Department of Economic Security said failure to approve the extension today will result in a disruption of benefits for those people. However, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor said that, if there is a disruption, it would only last a couple of days and those affected would receive retroactive payments.
The benefits extension program is expiring because Arizona’s unemployment rate had dropped to a level that requires the program to end based on a formula in state law.
The Department of Economic Security has already sent out letters to more than 29,000 people who could be affected by the loss of extended unemployment benefits.
Earlier this year, Congress allowed states to adjust their formulas to compare current unemployment levels to what they were three years ago instead of two years ago. While many states adjusted their formulas, Arizona did not.